Friday, June 13, 2014

Did Your Parents Have Any Children That Lived?

None of these clips are safe for work or civilized company.

Major Payne pops up on the Showtime every once in a while. I bust a gut every time. No matter how stupid the scene...I can't help it. I'm simple like that.

Of course it helps that I've had my own experience with Drill Sergeants. I spent 4 solid months of my life trying not to laugh at their antics...sometimes desperately. Not because the experience was fun. It wasn't really and often it was dreadful but, these Drills are more creative than housepainters with the insults and swear words.

I had a couple crawl up my ass one night in the mess hall because I couldn't stop laughing. Earlier in the day this kid from New Italian named Capo...had made some borderline racist comment. He was coming from the chowline with his tray when 3 or 4 black Drills ambushed him. They rushed him...swarmed on him...."You don't like black people Onion?...You gotta problem with black people Bucket?" He froze...his eyes got big as dinner plates. They weren't just on him...they were bobbing and weaving and circling him like snakes looking to strike.  I couldn't help it and a chuckle pressed out between my clinched teeth.

Yeah...that didn't work out so well for me.

There's this clip from Full Metal Jacket. If, for some reason, you've never seen the film...the following is very rough and there is something here to offend almost anyone. Proceed with caution.

My Daddy was in the Marine Corps between 59 and 63. He said that was as close as you could get to being there without actually signing up. He said it gave him flashbacks to Paris Island....but, he loves it. I had Heard all the stories before I'd ever seen the movie. He loved telling them. In fact, I was a little disappointed that Drill Instructor Hartman never asks a recruit if his parents were communists..."send you in here f*** up the U.S. Marine Corps?" Ha. One of my best buddies in service had been in the Marine Corps. He wanted to go back in but, once you left 'em...they wouldn't take you back so he was stuck with us in the army. He had an audio cassette tape of this scene. He would blare it over the loudspeakers in the mess hall while we were cooking supper.

I don't really know why anybody would look back fondly and laugh about an experience like boot camp. It is impossible to explain how immersive the misery is...there's no escape from it. Your every move is scrutinized and controlled. You dream about it when you sleep. It's like the smell of the generic green cleaner that permeates every sterile corner in the barracks. It's truly oppressive...but, I haven't met very many people that didn't relish a chance to look back on it...didn't have funny stories to tell.

My own experience was somewhere between Major Payne and Full Metal Jacket. I was only threatened with death once...or threatened with death three or four times on one occasion. Eventually your mind finds a grove and just about the time your body gets in shape the tasks become more interesting....rifle training, rappelling, field exercises, combat patrols and a gloriously anachronistic chance to Go Over the Top. In an exercise that must have been unchanged since 1914, we all filed down in a trench...flares shrieked and burst, machine gun fire snapped the air over our heads (seemed like was probably 20ft)...a whistle pierces the racket and up we go on our belies....into no man's land. There was barbed wire and charges buried in holes. The first one went off about five feet from me...the ground rattled and I bounced violently on the hard packed ground. I'm sure that I never ran as fast as I crawled after that explosion.

We went without supper that night. The whole way  a Drill Sgt. stood at the front of the bus talking in detail about the Tacos his wife was making him for supper and the cold beer he was gonna drink when he got home.

Bastard...they were all bastards.

"I will motivate you Pyle...if it short dicks every cannibal on the Congo."



  1. I have no idea how anyone makes it through army life. Everything I've ever seen or heard about it - and now especially your descriptions here - sounds horrendous (understatement). At the same time I realise that in order for someone to be able to do the extreme things required in a war situation they have to be broken, numbed and conditioned. I find it very hard to think about!
    FMJ was a good film, though!

    1. That's the peculiar thing...I look back on it with fondness. I can still conjure up the sick feeling in my stomach that was my constant companion through boot camp...but, I wouldn't trade it.

      The whole set up is designed by men for man stuff....maybe that's it.

      There are few people in the world that will ever be happier to see you than a former drill sergeant. When it's're like they're army children or something.

      The Drill Instructor in Full Metal Jacket was an actual D.I....he was on set as a consultant and Kubrick put him in the part. Most of that dialogue comes from his own experience training Marines. He explained that these fellas were headed straight to war and he had a responsibility to be hard on make sure they got what they were being told because it could save their lives.

    2. OMG I hate Major Payne-especially when they have the gaul to try to parody Billy Jack? Billy would have made hash out of Major Payne's ass.

      RIP Tom Laughlin.

  2. That guy was the best in FMJ but what I always wondered about him has how realistic he felt his fate in the film was. Is it something drill sergeants think about? How careful they need to be when they're breaking people's brains?

    1. That was the least convincing moment of the film. It is conceivable but highly unlikely that he could have squirreled away a few some earlier point in training...but how he would have gotten hold of a rifle is beyond me.

      There were a few people in our company that quit. One poor fella claimed he was trying to kill himself by jumping off the top bunk. Doh
      They were sent to a holding unit while they waited for discharge...usually kept there longer than training.

      In my experience and those I know, like my Daddy again went through real boot camp in the marines, the idea isn't to break people. They don't want mind numbed soldiers but the some of the best personalities for the job need to be ridden the hardest. You want a types but disciplined a types.

  3. At school, we could either do OTC (officer training corps) or Art. Pantywaist poetry-loving bedwetters like me did Art. Now you've made me feel guilty about wimping out. (But, believe me - those Art teachers gave us a rough time: "Grønmark - do that cross-hatching again and do it right or I'm going to FUCK YOU UP!!!")

    Great post, Erik.

    1. Ha. I can tell you that I hold my Instructors in much higher regard than I do any of the art teachers I had after 1st grade.....and there was one of those that often wanted to cuss me out.

      You were already a couple steps ahead of me at this stage...I had left college after finding it insufferable. I was restless and couldn't think of anything better to do.